Thursday, September 17, 2015

Hitting Dewford for Weakness - 1st Place with Tool Drop

Luckily Entei didn't kidnap my parents 
The past weekend, there was a double header in Greenfield. IN for the Rustboro and Dewford League seasons. For the first, I played Night March and didn't do spectacular (3-3), but changed it up for the second and played Tool Drop to a 4-0-1 win. Both League Challenges were Best of 1, Expanded format.

Focusing on Dewford, the 2nd lc, my matchups and some overviews were as follows:

1st Round: Jared Huth: Night March
This being the second tourny, and it being a long day in general, everyone was a little exhausted going into the first round of the tournament. This becomes relevent because:
Wait, that doesn't have Safeguard
    During the first round, I started Trubbish, and Jared started a Joltik. I immediately realised what he was playing, but he started off under the impression I was playing Toad/Garb. He took an expectedly lengthy first turn, dumping as many Pokemon and as many items as he possibly could, anticipating me attaching a Float Stone, dropping a Seismitoad and hitting him with a Quaking Punch the first chance I got.

    When he was finally done, I started my turn by dropping 2 Head Ringers on his Mew and Shaymin EXs, and dropping a Sigilyph PLB to the field. Once the Sigilyph hit the field, he knew what was coming. I Juniper'd for the few tools I needed and Energy, and proceeded to use his Dimension Valley to start off the OHKO's. From here we kept a pretty steady back and forth until he ran out of Double Colorless Energy, and lost momentum severely. I took my last few prizes while he tried to manually attach Basic Energy to attack.
1-0




2nd Round: Josh Fine: Night March
    Other than dumping all his resources early, this went very similar to the previous game. Tool Drop keeps pace with Night March extremely well, being able to utilize their own Dimension Valleys if you can't get your own out, and OHKO'ing their entire deck for a needed maximum of 6 tools on the board for 1 Psychic Energy. I was able to keep pace and out pace his special energy needs, and took the game once he started to run out.
2-0


3rd Round: Craig Schrader: Gengar/Trevenant
    This was actually my first loss of the previous League Challenge, and I expected it to be my first loss of this one as well. I won the flip, opting to go first and getting a Head Ringer on his only Gengar EX on the field. During his turn, he got a Phantump down, but whiffed the Wally for the turn 1 Trevenant, giving me a second unexpected turn of items. I took this opportunity to get as many more tools out as I could, and force Dimension Valley to stay in play by targeting the attackers that did not have Head Ringers. When he did finally get the Trevanant on active, I had a key Lysandre for one of his benched Shaymin EX, and set up a knockout on the Trevenant when it came back active by having a Trubbish lying in wait on the bench. The combination of already having enough tools on the field to keep up, forcing Dimension Valley to stay out due to his only attacker having a Head Ringer, and being able to knockout his only Trevenant lead to me pulling out the win.
3-0


4th Round: Kevin Baxter: Archie's Blastoise
    I was pretty wary about this matchup as well, as I hadn't tested against Blastoise much. Knowing he was playing the World's list and knowing he only played 2 tools total allowed me to know when I could Head Ringer key things to slow him down that slight bit. This comes in handy later...
Whoever thought Wailord could be so cute?
He started the game off by getting a turn 1 Blastoise, and I started the game by whiffing tools and energy by 4 turns. This put Kevin up 4 prizes early on. By the 3rd turn, I was pretty convinced I couldn't turn it around, but the 4th turn, I got enough tools on the field and energy to knockout his Keldeo EX. The Keldeo was the only thing on the field with enough energy to attack, as Kevin had to both fill his bench with support Pokemon to get setup and seemed to have trouble hitting the energy once he was set up. He walled with Wailord for a turn, and I got 220 damage on it with Trubbish (so close..). He managed to get another Keldeo going quick enough, and then I believe he actually Lysandre'd up a Sigilyph with an energy and 3 tools on it (1 being a Life Dew) for KO. Then he N'd me to 4, and himself to 2. I counter KO'd the Keldeo with a Trubbish, Head Ringer'd his Wailord EX, Hard Charmed my only Shaymin EX, and that was pretty much game there. He couldn't OHKO my only EX without getting 7 energy on his Blastoise or 6 on Wailord and a Lysandre, which didn't happen. I don't recall exactly what he knocked out, but he managed to knockout either a Sigilyph or Trubbish to put himself down to 1 prize, but couldn't capitalize on it. He eventually had to put up his only Blastoise with only 4 energy total on the board (2 on Wailord, 2 on Shaymin) to prevent me from winning that game that turn, but couldn't get an Archie's again the following turn to win.
4-0

5th Round: Charles Randall Larenas-Leach: Night March
    Charles Randall and I actually drove in together (this should be no surprise, as this is indeed his site), so this being finals was amusing. Him knowing how awful the matchup was for him, and knowing that my resistance was generally better than his, he proposed a tie. I took it, seeing no disadvantage, and this led to me taking 1st, and him taking 2nd, us being the only ones undefeated the whole tournament. We played a game following anyway, and he never actually saw any Double Colorless the entire game. He took a knockout with a Mew/Dimension Valley/Lightning Energy, but never saw any other energy for the remainder of the game.
4-0-1
Finish

Here are also some key card counts that I think worked especially well:

4 Trubbish PLS: Getting as many tools out as possible to hit high numbers will
always be your go to for OHKOs. This little guy is why this deck works.

7 Psychic Energy: This, combined with Dimension Valley, usually keeps you attacking the entire game. If need be, you can even slap 2 Hard Charms, 1 Muscle Band on a Sigilyph and 2HKO EX's for 2 energy and resist 40 damage (60 against Fighting).

3 Sigilyph: I didn't need to max out these in the slightest. I could either attach Head Ringers to my opponent's board to push up my damage, or OHKO their non EX for less tools. Useful, but not the key focus.

1 Super Rod: I actually played Sacred Ash for the tournament, but realized I would at most be putting in 3 Trubbish, average 2.5.
One of the more overlooked gains in Expanded
This made Super Rod a much better choice.

2 Eco Arm: There were times I would discard these early on, but when I could use them, it was fantastic. They can shuffle in Muscle Bands, Floats, Head Ringers, and even Life Dew. Getting 3 tools back may not win you the game, but it certainly helps.

1 Garbodor: Pyroar and Bats exist, and when all else fails, you can always hinder your opponent's Shaymins. I found it especially useful against Night March's Mews, to force them to either not attack a turn, or use up all their DCEs super quick.

The rest was mostly just consistency. Consistency is really key, especially in Expanded.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

"One Weekend, Seventeen Games, and Fourteen Wins"- A Triple League Challenge Report

As the title says, I went 14-2-1 at three League Challenges this past weekend. On Saturday my local friends and I drove the two hour drive in three different cars to Greenfield, Indiana for a double League Challenge. Then, on Sunday, I made another two hour drive up to Chicago to pick up my grandparents, and I made a League Challenge out of it.

On Saturday morning, my friend Brandon Flowers picked up my friend Jake and I from our dorm (I
just started college!). We drove through Taco Bell to get energized with some breakfast burritos, and we got on the road. The sun was awful and gave me a headache, but luckily Brandon had good taste in music and he let me play Pokemon Shuffle on his phone (Actually, that last part wasn't so lucky because now I downloaded it myself, the game is addicting, and I play it every thirty minutes).

Brandon, Jake and I were all going to play Night March, although Jake is new to the game and did not have Shaymins yet. Two hours later, we arrived at the venue and met up with the rest of the Champaign/Urbana crew. The entry fee was five dollars per event, which wasn't so bad, and when we arrived attendance seemed somewhat low-ish. Unfortunately, as the end of registration grew nearer, the venue got more and more crowded, and it was announced that we would be playing six rounds. This wouldn't have been so bad for a League Challenge, except for the fact that we would be playing two of them back-to-back, which meant that we would be spending a lot of time in Indiana. The organizers were also not expecting such high attendance, but luckily everything was run smoothly with minimal bumps.

Round 1 vs Gumby Arce with Metal/Ray

He started with Rayquaza EX, and his Altaria was in his prizes, so I took two prizes on my first turn. On my second turn, I used Lysandre to drag up a Keldeo EX and knock it out, and on my third turn, I dragged up a third EX and took my sixth prize card.

1-0

Round 2 vs Philip Harshfield with Metal

We both had poor starts. I couldn't go off, and neither could my opponent. I manually loaded up a Joltik with two Lightning Energy and used Lysandre to drag up my opponent's Aegislash EX. He had one basic metal energy attached to it and a Bronzong in play, but he had no energy in the discard pile and no cards in his hand. He retreated the Aegislash for free with Float Stone and hit my Joltik for 10 damage with his Cobalion EX, and I Lysandred the Aegislash to knock it out. He hit my Joltik for another 10 and then I knocked out the Cobalion. I don't remember how I took my last two prizes, but I remember that the Joltik sat out there for the rest of the game.

2-0

Round 3 vs Joni Heredia with Speed Lugia

She started with Deoxys, attached a Double Colorless Energy to it, and then drew through half of her deck to set up. She benched multiple Shaymin, Deoxys, and Thundurus EX, and then she passed with Deoxys active. I knocked out the Deoxys with Pumpkaboo. She knocked out the Pumpkaboo with Lugia EX to take two prizes, but then I knocked out the Lugia with Joltik. She knocked it out with Thundurus EX, but I was able to get nine Night Marchers in the discard pile to get the knockout for my fifth and sixth prizes.

3-0

Round 4 vs Aaron Tarbell with Trevenant/Gengar

I went first, starting with Joltik, and I got five Night Marchers in the discard pile. I got a couple of Unowns and Pumpkaboo down. He drew, attached a Double Colorless to his lone Gengar EX, and used Night Attack on the Joltik. I promoted Pumpkaboo and had just enough Night Marchers in deck to discard all of them to win the game.

4-0

Round 5 vs Nick W. with Donphan

In this round, I got downpaired against a Senior who was 3-0-1. Unfortunately, Donphan is not a great matchup for Night March. Having played this matchup a lot, my strategy is to use Pumpkaboo as an attacker and use Lysandre a lot to knock out Donphans. I knocked out three Donphans in this way, but he smartly attached a Focus Sash to the fourth Donphan, meaning that I had to Lysandre it out twice. This put me too far behind on prizes, and he was able to Lysandre a Shaymin and knock it out with Hawlucha to win the game.

4-1

Round 6 vs Josh Fine with Night March

I got to play the mirror match! I'm pretty comfortable with it, and the Unowns give me enough draw power to get Lysandre when I need it. I used a cool trick and attached Muscle Band to Unown with Dimension Valley in play to knock out a Joltik with Hidden Power. He also had to attack with Mew EX at some point, so eventually it was easy to clean up my last few prizes with Lysandre.

5-1

During the last round, the 5-0 got paired against the Senior who beat me during the fifth round. Unfortunately, Donphan was no match for Gengar/Trevenant, but I do appreciate that Nick didn't just intentionally draw the match, because he was in a position where he could have done so. There were three 5-1s and one 6-0, and my resistance was high enough to put me in second place! My roommate Damien Hardy took third, and the top four looked like this:

1. Craig Schrader with Gengar EX/Trevenant
2. Charles Larenas-Leach with Night March/Unown
3. Damien Hardy with Seismitoad EX/Manectric EX/Garbodor
4. Ben Osborn with Landorus/Crobat

Two cars full of our Champaign-Urbana people left at this point because it was pretty late, but Brandon, Nick, Andrew and I decided to stay behind for the second tournament.


We had no time in between the two tournaments because they were back-to-back and we were short on extra time. We tried to fix Nick's Yveltal/Archeops deck, but pairings were announced before he could make any changes, so he ended up playing the same list. Luckily, the second tournament only had five rounds as opposed to six.

Round 1 vs Gumby Arce with Metal/Ray

Does this seem familiar at all? Yes, I did end up getting paired against the same opponent for the first round of both tournaments. This game also went similarly to the previous one in that I won after attacking EXes three times. Rayquaza EX and Shaymin EX were weak to Lightning, and Hoopa EX was weak to Psychic, so it was pretty easy to find a Pokemon EX within range of a Night March.

1-0

Round 2 vs Lenny Presock with Donphan/Eeveelutions

It was worrying to see my opponent flip over a Phanpy, but I had a much better time streaming Lysandre in this game, as my opponent only played one Focus Sash. My opponent got a Jolteon into play, but he never could bring up a Shaymin EX to knock out, so it was never really relevant. I managed to knock out all of his Donphans, but I ran out of Lysandre, so I had to knock out three Robo Substitutes before I could take my last couple of prizes.

2-0

Round 3 vs Evan Cole with Durant

He mulliganed several times, so I knew that he was playing Durant. I started with Unown, and took all the mulligans (six?). I used Switch of Float Stone to switch into Pumpkaboo, and then I used Farewell Letter, making Pumpkaboo the only Pokemon on my board. I've been playing Bunnelby with Crawdaunt for several months, so I feel like I know how to play against these types of decks.

1. Only have one Pokemon out. Your opponent can stall using Lysandre to drag out other Pokemon to waste your time. This strategy will only be viable until Durant decks update and start running a Mewtwo EX and a Double Colorless energy like they used to.

2. Don't be afraid to Juniper if you need to. If you are one energy attachment short of attacking, statistically the Durant deck has you under a lock. You get to draw one card per turn, and your opponent is milling up to four cards per turn, so if you have the energy you need in the top five cards of your deck, there is a 4/5th chance that the energy will be discarded. This is a soft lock of sorts, and sometimes it's to your advantage to draw cards if it means that you don't miss the attack for the turn. This is why I took the mulligan cards, and why I occasionally use Professor Juniper against Durant decks; I can't afford to miss the energy drop if it means I can't knock out Durant.

I used these strategies against Evan, and I was also very lucky that he drew poorly. I ran him out of Pokemon before I took six prizes. I know that I said that I thought that Durant was not viable in the Expanded format, but since then Eco Arm was printed, letting Durant reuse Life Dew without having to attack with Bunnelby or Sableye. I don't think that the perfect list for Durant has been created yet, but someone will create a more optimal list and have success with it.

3-0

For some reason, during this round, the judges didn't post pairings or use match slips because they were low on paper. Because of this, I couldn't see that they recorded my round two match incorrectly. I played against a 1-1, and my round two opponent played against a 2-0. After round three, I got the result corrected, by resistance was still hurt.

Round 4 vs Josh Fine with Night March

This name might look familiar too, because this was my sixth round opponent from last time! Unown really came in clutch for me this game, because I took three knockouts on three EXes in three turns to win the game. It was a lot closer because I had to attack with Mew EX to get off my second Lysandre, but I still managed to bring home a win.

4-0

Round 5 vs Brandon Flowers with Tool Drop

Brandon and I were both 4-0 and we were the only people with undefeated records. This was the last round, I was exhausted, and I knew that my resistance was messed up because of the mis-pair. Because of this, Brandon and I decided to intentionally draw. We played a fun game and I got absolutely slaughtered.

4-0-1
Don't sleep on this card.

My record was good enough for yet another second place, with the tournament win going to Brandon. The top four was as follows:

1. Brandon Flowers with Tool Drop
2. Charles Larenas-Leach with Night March
3. Kevin Baxter with Blastoise
4. Aaron Tarbell with M Manectric/Regice

We drove to a pizza place and bought some deep dish pizza, and then I drove Brandon's car with everyone in it back to Champaign and I crashed immediately.

At 8 AM the next morning, I woke up, showered and ate breakfast. Damien helped me decide to cut Revive for Enhanced Hammer. Andrew Weiss picked me up at nine, we drove to my house where my uncle's car was, and we were off! The drive to Top Cut Comics in Chicago was another two hours to add to the weekend tally.

Round 1 vs Jimmy Ballard with Zoroark/Espeon/Hawlucha

As registration was ending, I heard Jimmy on the phone saying that he built a deck out of the store's commons box. For those of you who don't know, Jimmy got 2nd at Worlds in 2006, and now he runs his own chain of stores in Chicago and Rockford called Top Cut Comics. In this case though, he had three Professor Junipers in his prizes, and he only saw one energy card throughout the whole game. He used my Dimension Valley to attack with Espeon for free to do minimal damage and draw cards, but I was able to knock out several Pokemon before he conceded.

1-0

Round 2 vs Caleb Gedemer with Blastoise

Caleb told me that he drove three hours from Wisconsin to be there in Chicago. Caleb was one of the top players in North America for a short time during Spring of this year, so he is definitely a force to be reckoned with. He went first and got Archie's on the first turn. I went second and could not keep up. He knocked me out with Articuno, and then Wailord, and there was nothing I could do as he played the matchup perfectly. There was a point where I cwanted to use Lysandre to knock out his Blastoise, but before I could execute that play he used Archie's to get a second Blastoise into play. This was my first match in which I lost to a Master all weekend. Good game Caleb!

1-1

Round 3 vs Vespiquen

My opponent was a girl whose boyfriend had built her deck. The deck ran Shaymin EX, but it ran Professor Birch's Observations instead of N. This let me plan my plays farther in advance, and came in clutch for me because I started pretty slowly. I used Enhanced Hammer for the only time that day when I whiffed the attack on Vespiquen because I had two Double Colorless Energy prized. When I took my third and fourth prizes off of a Shaymin EX, I drew both of the Double Colorless, and that was enough for me to take the game.

2-1

Round 4 vs Durant

These games went similarly to my previous Durant match. I started Unown and used Switch to put a Pumpkaboo active before using Farewell Letter to get the Unown off of my field. He streamed Life Dew a few times, but he completely whiffed his Enhanced Hammers and he wasn't discarding Energy when he used Devour. Against Evan in Indiana, I felt like there was a lot of wasted time counting cards left in deck, so I solved that problem by keeping a count with dice that indicated how many cards were left. This saved time and made that information easily available to both my opponent and me, so I recommend it.

3-1

Round 5 vs Nick Walls with Blastoise

My opponent started with Mewtwo EX, and proceeded to Juniper away a hand of Water, Water, Water, Superior Energy Retrieval, and Superior Energy Retrieval. I knocked out the Mewtwo with Pumpkaboo on the following turn, and he whiffed the Archie's yet again while discarding Wailord EX with Battle Compressor. I dragged up a Keldeo EX with Lysandre to knock it out. On his third turn, he did get Archie's, but by then it was too easy to take a knockout on a benched Shaymin; he couldn't use Archie's and N on the same turn.

4-1

2013 called and they want Blastoise back.
Round 6 vs Tyler Lamb with Blastoise

I got up-paired vs the 5-0. In hindsight, I should have intentionally drew because my resistance was bad and I knew that it was an unfavorable matchup. I went to the pairings and counted five or six 5-1s, but I couldn't really process that information.

I don't remember who went first, but I remember that I won in three turns. The game was very close, and if he had one more attack he would have won. I was in a position where I had an Active Mew EX and a bench consisting of a couple of Unowns and Joltik. He had a powered up Articuno active and a powered up Keldeo EX on the bench. I had two prizes left, and he had three or four. He chose to VS Seeker into Lysandre and knock out the Joltik, meaning I needed the Lysandre and a Night Marcher whose attack I could copy with the Mew EX that he left alive. I used all four Farewell Letters before drawing into the Ultra Ball for Joltik; I already had VS Seeker in hand. I still had a Trainers' Mail in my hand though, so I could have dug a little deeper if I had to.

5-1

My first round opponent went 1-5, so my resistance was poor. In addition, I lost my second round, which didn't do me any favors, so I went straight down to fourth place at the bottom of the 5-1s. The fact that I won against Tyler though meant that there were no 6-0s and four 5-1s. The standings were as follows:

1. Caleb Gedemer with Blastoise
2. Tyler Lamb with Blastoise
3. Cody Kressman with M Manectric/Pyroar
4. Charles Larenas-Leach with Night March

Andrew came back from 0-3 to 3-3, and the prizes were pretty great. Everyone got two packs for every game that they won, so I came away with ten packs of Roaring Skies for my 5-1 record! Andrew and I drove to Portillo's and had dinner with my uncle, aunt, cousin, and grandparents, and then Andrew and I drove back to Champaign with my grandparents in tow.

Overall I had a good weekend, pulling in 34 Championship Points. I went to as many League Challenges this weekend as I did all of last season, and I didn't have this many Championship Points last season until January, so I feel like I'm ahead of the bar that I set for myself last year. Here is the list I used this weekend:

Pokemon: 21

4 Pumpkaboo
4 Joltik
4 Lampent
2 Mew EX
3 Shaymin EX
4 Unown

Trainers: 32

4 Ultra Ball
4 Battle Compressor
4 Trainers' Mail
1 Revive
1 Computer Search
1 Switch
1 Float Stone
2 Muscle Band
4 VS Seeker
2 Professor Juniper
2 N
2 Lysandre
4 Dimension Valley

Energy: 7

4 Double Colorless Energy
3 Lightning Energy

After Saturday, I took out Revive for Enhanced Hammer. I still feel like that card is a free slot. I based this list heavily off of Merlin Quittek's Top Four list from Worlds with a lot of the counts of Trainers. This is a good example of where I was totally locked into card counts that I had never questioned before, such as four Professor Juniper. Once I dropped down to three and then two, I never even noticed the difference. I was very surprised on Saturday night when I was laying my deck out and saw that I only had two Juniper. The deck ran fine without the other two!




I also bumped my N count up to two, and now I can always N when I feel like I need to and it is lovely. Being forced to play Professor Birch's Observations in the Standard format makes me realize how much I have always taken N for granted. If I was going to add another Supporter to the deck, I would be tempted to add a third Lysandre, just because Lysandre is really important in winning several matchups.

The key part of this deck is the Unown. You could say that I cut the Acro Bikes for the Unowns, but I had already cut the Acro Bikes so I didn't think about it that way. Running a deck with Unown is kind of like running a deck with 56 cards, but it isn't that simple. I can bench an Unown and choose not to draw immediately. Just because you have the ability/Ability to draw a card doesn't mean you should! Benching Unown acts as insurance. Let's say you play a Juniper because you're digging for something, and you miss it. That's when you can use the Unowns! Unown also gives you a great way to draw out of N, because there is a huge difference between drawing two cards than drawing four or five cards.

One thing to note is that I do run two switching cards now, just because I tend to start with Unown a lot. Switch is nice to get out of status conditions and such, and Float Stone is a wonderful luxury because even after you use it as a switching card, it also has utility in giving you more flexibility as to when you choose your attacker.

There are so many decks that are viable in Expanded that I don't think it matters what the best deck is; all that matters is what is popular. If you can accurately predict the metagame, then you can succeed in Expanded.

That's all for today! I think that just because Unown doesn't add to Night March's damage output like it does to Vespiquen doesn't mean that it isn't an incredibly useful card. Lysandre was my MVP this weekend, and I can't use a draw Supporter and Lysandre in the same turn. I would like to thank both Shaymin EX and Unown for making this possible.

Thanks for reading!

CR

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

"Going Deep Into Mossdeep"- A Look At Standard Format Decks in Champaign/Urbana

I live in a city called Champaign, Illinois. Champaign and its twin city, Urbana, house both the University of Illinois campus and a vibrant Pokemon community.

Over the course of this past league season, the C-U (Champaign-Urbana) Pokemon League has been hosting weekly tournaments. We nicknamed this tournament series "the Mossdeep Open," and made it open to anyone who wants to join in and play some Pokemon. On the final weekend of the Mossdeep season, we invited the top six performers from the weekly tournaments to compete in a single-elimination tournament. The bracket was as follows:

The first and second seed got a bye, and the other four players played off to see which two would continue onto the top four. Two rounds later, we had our winner!

When we were creating our weekly tournament system, we decided that we would switch the format often to keep things fresh. Our first three tournaments were held in the Expanded format, but the finals were held in the standard format which was XY-AOR.

XY-AOR is a bit of a "ghost" format, because no major tournaments will be played with this combination of sets. Fall Regionals are Expanded and Cities will allow cards from XY to XY8, but no tournaments will use XY-AOR except for a few League Challenges. This means that people who only test for Regionals won't get a chance to play XY-on until they start preparing for Cities. I thought it would be interesting to show some lists in the Standard format for those who want to catch a glimpse of what the format looks like if they have a League Challenge to hit up or if they simply don't want to be thrown head-first into Standard come November.

I'm going to take a look at all six lists, their strengths, and their weaknesses. I'll recap how each deck performed, and what possible improvements that one could make to the list.

6th Place- Ben Barham with Primal Groudon


Pokemon: 10

3 Groudon EX
3 Primal Groudon EX
3 Wobbuffet
1 Bunnelby

Trainers: 39

4 Sycamore
4 Korrina
2 Steven
2 Lysandre
1 Pokemon Center Lady
1 Ace Trainer
1 Teammates

1 Switch
2 Battle Compressor
4 VS Seeker
1 Hard Charm
2 Focus Sash
4 Robo Substitute
2 Mega Turbo
2 Enhanced Hammer

3 Silent Lab
2 Fighting Stadium
1 Shrine of Memories

Energy: 11

4 Strong Energy
7 Fighting Energy

Ben's run came to an end in the quarterfinals when he had to play a mirror match against 3rd seed Nick Nosalik. Ben's list is pretty standard for the most part. For example, he runs a 3-3 line of Primal Groudon, 3 Wobbuffet, and 1 Bunnelby. Wobbuffet can slow down the opponent by not allowing them to play Shaymin, and it provides a decently-sized wall for Groudon to set up behind. Bunnelby serves several purposes in the deck, such as putting Stadiums back into the deck, but with a very high count of six stadiums, it may have been an unnecessary inclusion.

In terms of his Supporter lineup, Ben opted not to run any shuffle draw like Shauna or Professor Birch's Observations. Instead he ran a full line of both Professor Sycamore and Korrina in an effort to search out Groudon efficiently and also be able to draw many cards. Ben also played two Steven, which can guarantee him an energy on the turn that he plays it.

Instead of running the "standard" two Hard Charm and one Focus Sash, Ben opted to run two Focus sash instead, which would stop Vespiquen from knocking him out in one hit.

Ben told me that if he could go back and build a version of the deck that worked better in the mirror match, he would have dropped a Silent Lab and a Robo Sub for Professor's Letter and a third Mega Turbo. Running Professor's Letter allows for a Korrina that searches out Letter, which can then search out basic energy. Running Professor's Letter also means that Ben probably could have reduced his count of Steven to either one or zero.

Ben also says that he thinks that the winner of the Groudon mirror match is determined by who can get out two Groudons first. Both going first and never missing an energy drop can help swing that one way or the other.

5th Place- Andrew Weiss with Fairy-Box


Pokemon: 16

3 Spritzee
2 Aromatisse
1 Charizard EX
1 Malamar EX
1 Xerneas
1 Xerneas EX
1 Kangaskhan EX
1 M Kangaskhan EX
1 Manectric EX
1 Lugia EX
1 Aegislash EX
1 Seismitoad EX
1 Shaymin EX

Trainers: 32

4 Ultra Ball
3 Muscle Band
1 Level Ball
4 VS Seeker
1 Startling Megaphone
1 Escape Rope
1 Sacred Ash

4 Professor Sycamore
4 Shauna
2 Lysandre
1 Pokemon Fan Club
1 AZ
1 Ace Trainer

4 Fairy Garden

Energy: 12

4 Rainbow Energy
4 Fairy Energy
4 Double Colorless Energy

Andrew showed us that Fairy Box is not dead. Even with only four Rainbow Energy in deck, Andrew can always pick the optimal Pokemon for the job. Packing a solid 3-2 line of Aromatisse and a whopping eleven one-of Pokemon, it must have taken him a long time to fill out his decklist. There are also four Fairy Garden in the list, because Darkrai EX is no longer in format to give free retreat to the Pokemon with Rainbow energy attached.

Fairy decks lost Max Potion, and its subpar replacement is AZ. With Aromatisse in play, Max Potion effectively healed all of the damage from the its target at no cost. With AZ though, the healing counts as your Supporter for the turn, as opposed to being an Item like Max Potion. In addition, AZ forces you to discard all cards attached to the Pokemon that you target. Aromatisse can move the energy onto another Pokemon so that you don't lose the energy, but Aromatisse can't move Pokemon Tools, so an AZ could lose you the Muscle Band you had attached.

Andrew lost in the quarterfinals to a Vespiquen deck. If the Vespiquen player can get enough Pokemon into the discard pile, it can knock out anything on Andrew's side of the field with a couple of exceptions. One of these exceptions is M Kangashkan EX whose 230 HP is simply too much for Vespiquen to deal with. The other exception and Andrew's biggest hope to win the matchup is Aegislash EX. Aegislash can't be affected by Pokemon that have special energy attached, and Vespiquen decks rely largely on Double Colorless Energy. Unfortunately for Andrew, both of the Vespiquen decks that showed up to the tournament ran Bronzong, which let them reuse their basic energy, which was enough to completely overwhelm Fairy Box.

4th Place- Nick Nosalik with Primal Groudon


Pokemon: 10

3 Wobbuffet
3 Groudon EX
3 Primal Groudon EX
1 Bunnelby

Trainers: 39

2 Escape Rope
1 Switch
4 Robo Substitute
2 Mega Turbo
4 VS Seeker
2 Battle Compressor
1 Focus Sash
1 Ultra Ball
2 Hard Charm
2 Enhanced Hammer

4 Professor Sycamore
4 Korrina
2 Lysandre
1 Pokemon Center Lady
1 Teammates
1 Steven

1 Silent Lab
2 Fighting Stadium
1 Scorched Earth
1 Shrine of Memories

Energy: 11

4 Strong Energy
6 Fighting Energy
1 Psychic Energy

Besides a lack of Professor Birch's Observations, I believe that this is what a standard Primal Groudon list will look like. The Pokemon line looks fairly normal, there are five Stadiums and of course there are three switching cards to make up for a lack of Float Stone.

The three tech supporters are Teammates, Steven, and Pokemon Center Lady. Teammates is a fun inclusion because we run a high count of Robo Substitute. You can only play Teammates if one of your Pokemon was knocked out on the previous turn, and Robo Substitute counts as a knocked out Pokemon even if it doesn't give up a prize. When you load up a Groudon and it gets knocked out, you lose a lot of resources and momentum. Therefore, it's in your best interest to keep him alive, and Pokemon Center Lady helps heal and prevent knockouts. You can reuse the Center Lady with VS Seeker and make the one-of go a long way.

This is where I want to talk about Groudon's place in the Standard format. The fact is that Groudon is an amazing deck. It is hard to take down, one Groudon can take many prizes, and it is a deck that does not need to run Shaymin EX to function. So what is holding this deck back? As long as Vespiquen sees play, that Grass weakness is a huge drawback. The fact that Vespiquen can take down a fully powered Primal Groudon at very little cost means that Groudon will fall and Groudon will fall hard.

This is where Ben Barham thought, "I'll just play two Focus Sash." Focus Sash is great, especially because it can't be removed with Startling Megaphone or Xerosic. Once the Focus Sash is attached, it's there to stay. Damien Hardy, the runner-up of the tournament, thought that far ahead and included Faded Town in his Vespiquen list. That extra damage completely negates Focus Sash and makes Groudon obsolete.

I think that if Vespiquen ever falls out of favor, then Groudon has a real chance at being a Tier One deck. It has a huge amount of HP, huge damage output, and sets up without Shaymin. But that Grass weakness hurts it pretty badly. A Groudon deck with two Weakness Policy included has been severely neutered, but that may be the best way to run Groudon at the moment.

3rd Place- Brandon Flowers with Night March/Giratina EX/Latios EX


Pokemon: 20

4 Pumpkaboo
4 Joltik
4 Lampent
3 Shaymin EX
1 Bunnelby
2 Latios EX
2 Giratina EX

Trainers: 31

2 Acro Bike
4 Trainers' Mail
3 Battle Compressor
4 VS Seeker
2 Muscle Band
4 Ultra Ball
1 Switch
1 Escape Rope

4 Professor Sycamore
1 Professor Birch's Observations
1 Lysandre
1 Hex Maniac

3 Dimension Valley

Energy: 9

3 Psychic Energy
4 Double Colorless Energy
2 Double Dragon Energy

I want to preface what I say about this deck by emphasizing that it was a huge metagame call. I don't think that this deck would succeed if it wasn't placed in a field of decks that it wasn't prepared for. As it was, Brandon's strategy was to shore up the Vespiquen matchup with Giratina, donking Combees with Latios EX, and win against everything else with Night March.

There are a couple of problems with this deck. I don't think that it was necessarily built poorly, but I don't think that Night March is playable in XY-on with the current cardpool. After playing a few games with both this and other variants of Night March in XY-on, the deck just doesn't do enough damage. I'm going to excerpt something I wrote on the blog back in January:

I challenge you to build a Night March deck without Mew. It is possible, but you run into a few problems: 
 
A. You run out of Night Marchers to attack with. To knock out an EX in one hit, you need nine Night Marchers in the discard pile. With Muscle Band, you only need eight. With Silver Bangle, you only need seven to knock out EXes with 170 HP. That leaves you with three to five attackers, assuming that no Night Marcher is prized (which one or two always are, believe me). Your opponent gets six prizes, so by not running another attacker, you are not running the deck to its full potential.
B. You miss attacks because there isn't enough time to attach two energy cards to an attacker. Joltik needs a DCE, and Pumpkaboo also needs a DCE along with Dimension Valley. Assuming that you never miss an energy drop but that your attackers are always knocked out in one hit (which isn't unrealistic when the HP of your attackers are so low), you get to attack four times, tops. This is not acceptable or fast enough. That's where Mew EX comes in; Mew can attack for one energy with Dimension Valley in play and a Joltik on the bench. This lets you use energy more efficiently, and also Mew EX doesn't get OHKOd as often as Joltik and Pumpkaboo. This also gives more flexibility with basic energy, as Mew can use attacks of Pokemon that your opponent has in play.
Without Mew EX, there is no way for you to use Night March without a DCE. Also, to use the Night March attack for 180 damage, you must discard eight Night Marchers and have a Muscle Band attached. Against a good deck and a competent opponent, it is practically impossible to take all six prizes with the few Night March attackers you have, especially if you have any Lampents prized.

This meant that when I played games with Night March/Giratina, I was forced to use alternate attackers that couldn't use Night March. Even in matchups where it isn't optimal to attack with Giratina, you are still forced into trying to use him. Giratina is a very good card with both a strong ability and a strong attack, and I don't know what the best partner for it is. In Expanded, Seismitoad/Giratina saw some success, and people have talked about pairing it with Vileplume or Reshiram ROS, but I don't think an optimal partner has been released yet. I think that Giratina is a great card, and that you should try and get your hands on a couple of them, but for now I think he belongs in a binder.

2nd Place- Damien Hardy with Vespiquen


Pokemon: 24

4 Combee
4 Vespiquen
4 Unown
3 Shaymin EX
2 Pikachu
2 Raichu
2 Bronzor
1 Bronzong
1 Vulpix
1 Ninetales

Trainers: 28

4 Battle Compressor
2 Muscle Band
4 Ultra Ball
1 Escape Rope
1 Switch
1 Sacred Ash
4 VS Seeker

4 Professor Sycamore
1 Professor Birch's Observations
1 Lysandre
1 Ace Trainer
1 Teammates
1 Hex Maniac

2 Faded Town

Energy: 8

4 Double Colorless Energy
4 Metal Energy

1st Place- Luke Selig with Vespiquen


Pokemon: 25

4 Combee
4 Vespiquen
4 Unown
2 Bronzor
1 Bronzong
2 Swirlix
2 Slurpuff
3 Shaymin EX
1 Bunnelby
1 Vulpix
1 Ninetales

Trainers: 27

4 Battle Compressor
4 VS Seeker
4 Ultra Ball
2 Muscle Band
2 Escape Rope
1 Sacred Ash

4 Professor Sycamore
1 Professor Birch's Observations
1 Lysandre
1 Teammates
1 Hex Maniac

2 Faded Town

Energy: 8

4 Double Colorless Energy
4 Metal Energy

Both Luke and Damien played lists that were pretty similar to each other. This can be attributed to the fact that they tweaked the deck together right before the tournament. In terms or Pokemon, they both opted to play a 2-1 Bronzong line instead of playing Eeveelutions. The only thing that they knew they would want to hit for weakness was Primal Groudon, so they only needed to be Grass type, removing the need for Flareon or Jolteon. The Bronzong provides a bit of a safety net in that basic energy can be discarded early with Sycamore without stress. It also helps you attack without the use of Double Colorless Energy, which is helpful against Aegislash EX or against anything that knocks out Vespiquen consistently in one hit.

Why not play a 1-1 Bronzong? Why so many Pokemon? Anything that isn't needed in a certain matchup can be discarded with Battle Compressor, so that extra Bronzor can get thrown away to add 10 damage to Bee Revenge.

Luke chose to play Bunnelby, which can get back resources like Double Colorless Energy, and also mill in a pinch. Luke won the second game of the finals by discarding the top card of Damien's deck. And again, if Bunnelby isn't needed, he can be chucked into the discard pile with Battle Compressor.

Luke played Slurpuff and Damien played Raichu. Raichu provides an extra attacker and helps the deck hit for weakness against lightning-weak Pokemon, which is helpful since the deck doesn't run Eeveelutions. Raichu also has free retreat, which can be handy at time. Luke's Slurpuff gave him some extra draw power, and apparently that was what it took to win the Vespiquen mirror.

I don't think that Vespiquen is the absolute best deck in the Standard format. I do think, however, that it will be a popular choice and that your deck needs to be able to beat it. I think that Vespiquen in Standard is very similar to how Night March was last season, except for that the queen bee has a built-in way to counter Seismitoad EX.

What are good decks in Standard?


Vespiquen, according to the results of the Mossdeep Open, is the deck to beat. It can hit large amounts of damage easily and run a lot of different tech Pokemon, but it is reliant on Special Energy. One can add in Bronzong or Flareon/Blacksmith to combat this.

Metal without Rayquaza is very good in that it didn't lose a lot from Expanded to Standard (except for Keldeo EX and Float Stone), but the fact is that a Fire Weakness is a huge liability with Flareon being so popular. If you have a way to deal with Flareon, then Metal will be a fantastic choice.

Groudon is good, but as we discussed earlier, is crippled by its weakness to Grass. If you can find a way to deal with Vespiquen, a fully loaded up Primal Groudon that can easily take six prizes is nothing to sneeze at.

Metal/Rayquaza lost nearly nothing to rotation. The colorless M Rayquaza EX is packing a punch as always, and I would not count this deck out. Here is another example of where the weakness to Lightning can really hurt Rayquaza, but the deck has a built in answer to that with Altaria. If Jolteon is popular, Altaria is a must-run. Note that if a Vespiquen player uses Hex Maniac to shut off Altaria, they will also shut off Jolteon! Manectric decks can still use this to their advantage, though.

Dragon Rayquaza is strong, and it didn't lose anything important going into an XY-on format. It's weakness, Fairy, isn't easily exploitable without Max Potion in the format. It can easily tech in a couple of Giratina EX to deal with the Vespiquen matchup, and it has Reshiram ROS and Druddigon FLF as good non-EX attackers. Don't sleep on this deck!

Camerupt is good, but it has some problems if the Camerupt EXes are getting knocked out in one hit. It does, however, have a built-in non-EX attacker that accelerates energy to itself in Camerupt from Double Crisis. One flaw that the Camerupt deck suffers from is that it can't use Blacksmith and Lysandre on the same turn. What's the point of doing massive amounts of damage if you can't cherry pick who you do the damage to? That is something to think about. The deck also has a hard time if you can't find Sky Field early. The deck is definitely most testing, but Vaporeon will see an uptick in play if it gets even remotely popular.

M Manectric is my favorite deck going into the Standard format. It can be a little slow coming out of the gates, which means it takes a neat autoloss to decks that can do 170 damage on the first turn, and the strategy relies on keeping your M Manectrics alive. You lose to Groudon and the odd Golurk, but it is surprisingly easy enough to hold your own against everything else. The deck can add Regice pretty easily, which is a nice pseudo-Safeguard option.

Some other decks to look out for are Yveltal, Raichu/Bats, Mienshao, Golurk, Lucario/Hawlucha/Bats, Hippowdon, Aromatisse, Sceptile, Vileplume variants, Trevenant variants and Pyroar.

--

I had a lot of fun commentating these tournaments, and for the Sootopolis Open series, the lovely Damien Hardy and Luke Selig will get to co-commentate. Come watch us Sunday afternoons at twitch.tv/cupokemon at approximately 2:30 PM; we'll be playing XY-on these next two weeks and then switching back to Expanded!

Thanks for reading!

CR

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

What Counts As Success in Pokemon?

Note: In this post I will only be referring to the Masters age division. The accomplishments of younger age divisions matter, but there is no easy way to directly compare results from one division to another.

What counts as success in Pokemon? Does winning a City Championship count as "succeeding," or does one have to qualify for the World Championships to feel success? What if one qualifies for the World Championships but then can't win a single game once they arrive?

The thing is, everyone has to set that measure for themselves. If someone wins Worlds one year, then by definition they won't be as successful the next year, because almost no one has won Worlds more than once. At many events, some people just want to win some games, while others could feel disappointed if they fall short of winning the entire tournament.

Who Reaches Top Eight The Most?


Jason Klaczynski has won Worlds three times, but up until this year, he supposedly had a lot of trouble doing well at Nationals. Would you describe someone who has never succeeded at Nationals an unsuccessful player? Before U.S. Nationals 2015, I would not have described Jason as an unsuccessful player, and now that he has won both Nationals and Worlds in the Masters Division, that would most definitely not be a true statement.

So in that scenario, people said that Jason had never done "well" at Nationals because he had only ever made it to the Top Eight once. Nine players have made Top Eight at U.S. Nationals twice. These players are:

Jason Klaczynski
Seena Ghasiaskar
Steven Silvestro
Chris Fulop
Jay Hornung
Gino Lombardi
Karl Kitchin
Jayson Harry
Dylan Bryan

Does this mean that there are only nine players who do consistently well at Nationals? The reality is that it is ridiculously hard to do well at Nationals, let alone on a consistent basis. If it were easy to do that well, then the achievement wouldn't be as respected.

On a side note, only two players have made Top Eight at U.S. Nationals more than twice. Those players are:

Kyle Sucevich
Tom Dolezal

and they've each reached the Top Eight five times.

This is something to keep in mind when you create a Nationals Draft. No one has made Top Eight more than twice at U.S. Nationals except for Tom and Kyle. Past success can indicate future success but it can't guarantee it.

Does that make Kyle and Tom the best players in the game? Before Nationals had a Play! Points requirement, Tom in particular was notorious for not playing any tournaments all year and then performing well at Nationals. Now he has to earn those Play! Points, and I don't believe that he's made Top Eight since Nationals changed to a Day Two Swiss system. Kyle is unable to continue succeeding at tournaments since he legally can't take part.

Tom and Kyle also have a large advantage in terms of their sheer number of Top Eights for the simple reason that they've been playing the game since the beginning of organized play, and have had more opportunities to succeed at Nationals than people who just picked up the game as recently as 2010. In addition to that, Nationals used to be a lot smaller, and in the beginning there was only a top cut of sixteen or thirty two. This means that Jason Klaczynski's performance in 2015 was significantly more impressive than his 6th place finish in 2004.

The U.S. National Championship is a legitimately challenging tournament, but it is limited to only players from the United States. So to know who the best players in the world are, by definition we have to look to the World Championships. A whopping ten players have made Top Eight at Worlds twice. Those players are:

Jeremy Maron (US)
Ross Cawthon (US)
Tom Dolezal (US)
Takuya Yoneda (JP)
Go Miyamoto (JP)
Diego Cassiraga (AR)
Frank Diaz (US)
Jay Hornung (US)
Michael Pramawat (US)
Simon Narode (US)

 Four players have made Top Eight at Worlds three times, and they are:

Igor Costa (PT)
Tsuguyoshi Yamato (JP)
Jason Klaczynski (US)
Yuta Komatsuda (JP)

One player has made Top Eight at Worlds five times, and that player is:

Sami Sekkoum (UK)

Worlds are a whole different ball game than Nationals for the simple reason that a player has to qualify for the event. A player can do nothing (except collect ten Play! Points) all season and participate in Nationals. If someone has a bad season and doesn't qualify for Worlds, they would have to qualify via the Last Chance Qualifier (before 2015), and they are statistically less likely to succeed at Worlds.

The fact that Sami Sekkoum has qualified for Worlds every year since the beginning means he has had more chances to get to Top Eight (his accomplishment is still incredibly impressive). Igor Costa has only been in the Masters Division since 2012, and he has qualified for Worlds every year since then. In the four Worlds where he has been eligible to compete (in the Masters Division), he has a 75% success rate of reaching the Top Eight.

Which Players Have the Best Overall Seasons?


One thing I want to look at is what makes a successful season. What if someone has a great season, wins two Regionals, and wins Nationals, but can't win more than three games at the World Championships? Do you count that as a successful season? The reality is that it is especially challenging to do well at Worlds, even if you're an amazing player. There's a reason that out of the hundreds of people who have qualified for Worlds, only fifteen have made the Top Eight more than once. Worlds is just a tough tournament in general, so people who have a good season who make it into the Top 32 of Worlds, in my opinion, are skillful and consistent.

Now I'm choosing to define "have a really good season" by using the Top 16 in the U.S. and Canada, going along with the Day Two system. Since U.S. and Canada used to be referred to as "North America" and also included Mexico, I'm skipping over the Mexicans in the rankings and counting down. So if there were two Mexicans in the Top 16, I'll skip them and include #17 and #18. I'm also choosing to define "doing well at Worlds" as making it into the Top 32. This seems like a good number in that it isn't unreasonable to reach, but it is also somewhat prestigious.

2012 was the first year we had a Championship Point system, but instead of having a cutoff (ie. this year everyone with 300 points or more qualified for Worlds), the system was still set up to allow the top forty players from North America into Worlds. This meant that players had to chase points until the end, and that they couldn't be complacent and sit on their points because someone might overtake them. Of the Top 16 from the U.S. and Canada, five players made Top 32 at Worlds that year:

Jay Hornung
Harrison Leven
Guillaume Levesque-Sauve
Austin Baggs
Jason Klaczynski.

In 2013 and 2014, there was a CP cutoff, which meant that any player with over 400 or 500 points would qualify for Worlds. This meant that once a player reached the threshold, there was no real reason to continue playing. Therefore, it's very possible that the Top 16 in the U.S. and Canada was not a good indicator of who the best players were. In 2013, only two of those top players, Chase Moloney and Dylan Bryan, made Top 32 or better at Worlds. In 2014, only one of those players made it (Andrew Estrada), but he ended up winning the whole tournament.

2015, because more players were chasing a Day Two invite, ended up a lot more like 2012 in that four players that had Day Two invites made it to Top 32:

Jason Klaczynski
Sam Chen
Brit Pybas
Kian Amini

All four of those players made it into the Top 32, and Grant Manley bubbled at 33rd.

It is possible that these results are how they are because of how motivated players were to get Championship Points. It's also possible that these numbers were due to the size of the World Championships each year. From 2012 to 2013 to 2014, attendance grew and grew, which would correlate with our diminishing number of players from the Top 16 in CP that make Top 32 at Worlds. With this theory, the only reason that we had more succeeding top players in 2015 is because of the Day Two system: since the Top 16 players went right to Day Two, attendance effectively went down to below 150, vastly increasing the odds of making Top 32.

The G.O.A.T.

I want to be the very best.
I asked a few questions to a small sample size, asking about how they defined success and who they thought were successful players. I sent messages to Owen Robinson from Ohio, Romal Peccia from Ontario, and Jesper E. from Denmark. Here are their responses:

How do you define success in Pokemon?

Owen: Success in Pokemon is different for each person, the casual wants to have fun; the competitor is chasing the CP; and the collector wants to complete the sets.

Romal: I guess either consistently doing well or being ahead of the metagame, sometimes the two are related! Personally though, I just want to have fun, results are a byproduct of that.

Jesper: By doing good in tournaments just like me or any other successful player. Success is a personal thing. For me, success is when I win a tournament but success for others is (winning) just a few games. But I would define success as meeting people and winning.

Could you give me some examples of players you think are successful?

Owen: Pooka made the jump from competitor to commentator/career, three-time world champion Jason Klaczynski, Ross (Cawthon) for making Worlds every single year, Josh Wittenkeller hitting one million YouTube subscribers. The list goes on an on.

Romal: Andrew Mahone, I really look up to him. He's consistent, always ahead of the meta, and on top of that just a really good person to talk to. (He's) always well-spoken on Virbank. When he came up with Lando-Bats I messaged him asking a few questions and ever since then we chat about the game. I half-expected him to just ignore me!

Jesper: Obviously Jason Klaczynski. He is the icon of the game, but when it comes to have a better coin than me [sic], he isn't too successful. My brother: Simon Eriksen, he recently won Danish Nationals, and he is why I could be successful in this game for sure.

Who is the best Pokemon player of all time?

Owen: Ray Rizzo, Ross (Cawthon), or Igor (Costa).

Romal: Hmm, I can't say I have much experience in that since I've only been in the scene for less than a year, but Jason K. is an obvious answer.

Jesper: If I could have won Worlds, I would say myself, but Jason Klaczynski. He has won Nationals, many Regionals, and three World Championships, I can't imagine anybody more successful.

--

I had a lot of fun looking at and organizing this data. All of the information regarding Championship Points and Play! Points can be found here, at the leaderboards at Pokemon.com. The Championship Point information only goes back to 2012, because that's how long that CPs have existed for. I got all my Nationals and Worlds results from this incredibly helpful document. There you can see who has won every State Championship, been a finalist at a Regionals, or made Top Eight at U.S. Nationals or Worlds.

Keep looking at data and make predictions. I predict that four Day Two qualifiers from the U.S. and Canada will make Top 32 at Worlds this year. I predict that no one in the Top Eight of U.S. Nationals this year will have made it to that point more than once before. I predict that some of my predictions might be wrong, and that I can't wait to figure out why!

Thanks for reading!

Friday, July 31, 2015

"Ancient Origin Set Review"- Which Cards Nailed It and Which Cards Failed It

Prereleases for Ancient Origins are fast approaching, and you may be wondering which cards from the new set are worth ordering and holding onto, and which cards aren't. I'll be going over some of cards from XY: Ancient Origins that are underrated and overrated, and give my opinions on them.


Credit for all images go to The Charizard Lounge. You can see all of the scans here! A big thanks goes out to Andrew for collecting all those scans for the community.




Vileplume

The Pokemon Card Laboratory has a tendency to print cards that are reminiscent of older cards. The Vileplume from the new set is no exception. Those of you who played the game in 2010 might remember Vileplume UD, whose Allergy Flower Ability shut off all Items. The card saw play in the popular "VileGar" deck in the 2010-2011 season, and continued to succeed until the mid-season rotation at the end of that year.


VileGar in particular succeeded because the deck ran a high count of Spiritomb AR, which shut off all Items for both players when it was in the Active position. Gengar's Basic form, Gastly, also had the Pitch Dark attack that shut off Items for the opposing player on the following turn. With Gastly and Spiritomb, Items could be completely shut off until the Vileplume player could get a Vileplume out.


Vileplume continued to be relevant even after it lost Spiritomb, showing up in Ross Cawthon's The Truth deck when he got 2nd place at Worlds that year. Vileplume also featured in V/V/V, the Vileplume/Victini/Vanilluxe deck, and in the Chandelure/Darkrai/Mew Prime/Accelgor/Vileplume deck (that eventually evolved into Gothitelle/Accelgor/Dusknoir and later Trevenant/Accelgor).


Vileplume is effectively being reprinted in Ancient Origins. The new 'Plume clocks in at 130 HP, which is 10 more hit points than the old one had. It also has a hefty retreat cost of three, which makes it hard to get out of the Active position. The attack is irrelevant because you never want to attack with it, but it is very bad (70 for GCC).


Do I think that this Vileplume is going to be as powerful as the old one? I don't think so, and here's why:


In the old format, we had searching Supporters like Pokemon Collector and Twins, which were both very important for setting up and searching under Item Lock. Collector could grab you one or two Oddish along with a way to set up attackers, and a heavy Twins count means that you could sacrifice something early and be able to search your deck under Item Lock.

In this format, a lot of our search is Item-based. We have Level Ball and Ultra Ball, but these become dead cards once you get Vileplume out. It is my belief that you have to max out both of these cards to get out your big ugly flower consistently, and that comes back to hurt you late-game when you draw into a bunch of cards that you can't play. Wait! you might say, We have very similar supporters to Collector and Twins still in format! To which I would respond, The new Supporters are not good enough. Pokemon Fan Club nets you two basic Pokemon when Collector got you three, and that really does make all of the difference. Teammates only works the turn after you get something knocked out, whereas as soon as your opponent took a prize, you could chain Twins for the next several turns.


If you run a Vileplume deck, you would like to have


4 Level Ball

4 Ultra Ball
4 Trainers' Mail
A 3-3-3 line of Vileplume

If your goal is to get out a Vileplume on the first turn, you must run Forest of Giant Plants as well, but I think that type of deck inherently contradicts itself. To be fast enough to consistently get out a Vileplume on the first turn, a deck would have to run a lot of Items to draw and search for that many cards. This type of deck would have a poor late game because of all the Items in the deck. In addition, because speed decks tend to run a lot of Shaymin, you don't want to have a lot of energy in those types of deck. But if you are under Item-lock, you'll be missing a lot of energy drops if you don't run more than ten energy, which would clog up your hand in the early part of the game.


One other thing to consider is that Vileplume has a Retreat Cost of three. In the old format, it was a real problem when Luxray GL Lv. X would use Bright Look to drag up Vileplume and snipe around it. For this reason, Vileplume decks ran Warp Energy, which was a Switch card under Item Lock. Unown Q was also part of that format. That card could be attached to one of your Pokemon as a Pokemon Tool to make it have one less retreat cost. This meant that Vileplume could retreat for one energy. Nothing like that exists at this point, so if your Vileplume is stuck active after a Lysandre, you can't play Switch or anything of that sort! Your only option in that situation is AZ, which is a viable switching option if Forest of Giant Plants is in play.


This brings us to one of the facets of Vileplume decks: switching cards. Besides the issue of having your opponent Lysandre up Vileplume to stall, there will undoubtedly be a time where you start the game with an Active Oddish and you have no way to get it to the bench. If you get Vileplume out before you draw Switch, that forces you to either waste an Energy attachment or play an AZ, wasting your Supporter for the turn. That really isn't very efficient. This means that if you run a Vileplume deck, you'll have to run a couple of AZ so that you have it when you need it.


I think that Item lock is very powerful and crippling to many decks, and for that reason I don't see a way to make Vileplume viable for the simple reason that it locks you in addition to locking your opponent. It is really hard for a deck to function under Item-lock, and Vileplume decks are no exception. For this reason, Seismitoad EX and Trevenant XY are both better cards because they Item-lock the opponent without crippling the pilot of the Item-lock deck. With the card pool of XY-AOR, I don't see a valid Vileplume deck being successful. However, I don't think that Vileplume is a junk card that you should throw away. In the future, if better searching Supporters are printed (because they are pretty bad right now), Vileplume could see a place in the metagame. I would go ahead and pick them up while they are cheap and inferior because history shows us that Item-lock is inherently strong even if Vileplume isn't particularly strong in the XY-AOR metagame.


I also wouldn't throw away your Vileplumes because they are not quite so weak in the Expanded format. I won't delve into Expanded too much, because that is a huge can of worms, but there are a couple of ways that Vileplume gets better in Expanded. For one, you can pop a Float Stone on it when it's still an Oddish, and then no one can use the Lysandre trick to stall you out. You can also use one of Dylan Bryan's tricks from Nationals and run a Jirachi EX and a Teammates. This means that after your opponent knocks out one of your Pokemon, you can effectively play Ultra Ball to get a Vileplume out by searching for Jirachi EX. Then, you can use Stellar Guidance to find Teammates to find Gloom and Vileplume, and evolve right away with Forest of Giant Plants! Also, Pokemon Communication was a good way to get out Stage 2 lines with a Broken Time-Space in play, and that is no different with Vileplume and Forest of Giant Plants. With Pokemon Communication, it becomes significantly easier to get out 'Plume.


Giratina EX



If I had to play Vileplume in the Standard format, however, I would probably play it with Giratina EX. Giratina has an Ability that says that it can't be affected by Mega Evolved Pokemon. In this set, we see the first "hate" toward Mega-Evolved Pokemon. Maybe in the future this means that Pyroar and Giratina can join forces to take down everything! Giratina is kind of slow and clunky, with an attack costing GPCC for 100, but it also stops your opponent from playing Pokemon Tools, Stadiums, or Special Energy from their hand. This has great synergy with Team Flare Grunt. This also has good synergy with Vileplume because you can make your opponent only able to play Basic Energy and Supporter cards.

Giratina is a Dragon-type, so he can take advantage of Double Dragon Energy. This means that his attack can cost as few as two attachments with two Double Dragon Energy or a Double Dragon Energy and a Double Colorless Energy. This is what my list centering around Giratina EX might look like:


3 Miltank FLF

2 Giratina EX
3 Oddish
3 Gloom
2 Vileplume
2 Shaymin EX
=15

4 Ultra Ball

4 Level Ball
2 Switch
3 Trainers' Mail

3 Pokemon Fan Club

3 Professor Sycamore
5 Shauna + Professor Birch's Observations
1 Team Flare Grunt
1 Xerosic
1 Pokemon Center Lady
1 Lysandre
1 Steven
1 Tierno
3 AZ

1 Giant Forest of Plants

=34

4 Double Dragon Energy

4 Double Colorless Energy
2 Psychic Energy
1 Grass Energy
=11

Miltank FLF seems like a pretty good attacker to go with Vileplume. If you have Vileplume in play, it hits for eighty damage, but more importantly it does that for just one energy attachment. If you aren't drawing a lot of cards to find your energy, it's important that your one energy card does pack a punch. The Supporter line is all over the place. Tech supporters are inherently weaker when you can't use VS Seeker to reuse them, and I'm not sure yet whether we should add more tech Supporters in response to that.


Tierno is not terrible in this deck, and Team Aqua Grunt is also an option in his place. Tierno lets you simply draw three cards, and Team Aqua Grunt has you discard a card to draw three cards. If this were a normal deck, then Tierno would be an obvious choice, but if you won't get to play any Items for the rest of the game, then Team Aqua Grunt might be an opportunity to discard an Item card and thin your deck before you play a Shauna or something of that sort to shuffle your hand back into your deck on the following turn.


Giratina might also see play as a sort of "Safeguard" type of tech in decks that already run Double Dragon Energy, such as decks that use Reshiram ROS to accelerate energy. For example, in the Expanded format, one might tech a Giratina EX into this type of deck (replacing a Latios EX for Giratina EX), where we already run Double Dragon Energy along with energy acceleration that works for Giratina. In the Standard format, that skeleton list might look like this:


3 Giratina EX
2 Reshiram ROS
2 Hydreigon EX
2 Druddigon FLF
3 Shaymin EX
1 Bunnelby (Ancient Trait)
=13

4 Professor Sycamore
3 Shauna/Professor Birch's Observations
2 Lysandre
4 VS Seeker

1 Sacred Ash
4 Ultra Ball
2 Escape Rope
1 Switch
1 Energy Retrieval
3 Muscle Band

3 Sky Field
=27

6 Fire Energy
4 Double Dragon Energy
=10

Giratina's attack doesn't use Fire Energy, but its attack does use CC. Two fire can make up that cost, while a Double Dragon Energy shores up the rest. If we run out of Double Dragon Energy or have to play a crippling Professor Sycamore to stay in the game, Bunnelby is the safety net that lets us get back any resource from the discard pile. Giratina EX doesn't knock things out in one hit like Latios EX has the capability of doing, but it does keep up a pretty mean lock which makes it worth attacking with.

Giratina is powerful and interesting because of how many decks are reliant on Special Energy. My XY-on Night March build only uses Special Energy, so Giratina would rip it apart quite handily! This is definitely a card to sleep on because it has potential.

Forest of Giant Plants


This may be the most impactful card in the set. Unfortunately I don't have the energy or expertise to even begin to dive into this card, and it has been discussed to death elsewhere.

In the Standard format, Ross Gilbert from PTCG Radio has gone into great detail on this subject, going over every playable evolved Grass Pokemon. You can check that out here.


In Expanded, Shiftry takes huge advantage of Giant Plant Forest. The text of the Stadium lets Grass Pokemon evolve in an accelerated fashion, and since Nuzleaf is grass, it can evolve into the Darkness-typed Shiftry and use the Giant Fan Ability. You can read more about that at The Charizard Lounge.


I am personally going to have a lot of fun with Forretress FLF. Since Pineco is Grass-type, Forretress can also evolve on the first turn with Forest of Giant Plants. This is what a Forretress skeleton list might look like in the Expanded format:


4 Pineco

4 Forretress
3 Shaymin EX

4 Devolution Spray

3 Level Ball
4 Super Scoop Up
1 Scoop Up Cyclone
4 Roller Skates
4 Acro Bike
4 Recycle
1 Battle Compressor
1 Float Stone
4 Trainers' Mail
2 Professor Juniper
4 Forest of Giant Plants

As you can see, the deck runs no energy. The goal is to just put as much damage on your opponent's board as possible. If your opponent just starts with a couple of non-EX Pokemon, there really isn't much they can do! The deck still needs a good attacker, and I'm not quite sure yet what that should be. Gourgeist XY does some spreading damage for just a Psychic energy, but I'm not exactly sure how to fit that in at the moment.


Machamp EX



A general rule is to stay away from Crazy Hammers
Machamp EX is a strong card but it has many limitations. What the card creators want for you to do with this card is to get damage on Machamp (ideally at least ninety damage) and use Steaming Mad to knock out an EX. Thrash does 20x the number of damage counters on Machamp, which is a very strong Outrage-type attack. Unfortunately the drawback to this attack is that Machamp becomes Confused. After you use Steaming Mad, the card creators want you to use Crazy Hammer. Crazy Hammer does 80 damage, but it does 80 more damage if Machamp is affected by a Special Condition.
Let's think through this for a second. There are five Special Conditions: Asleep, Paralyzed, Burned, and Confused. Machamp can't attack if it's Asleep or Paralyzed, so those are ruled out, as they don't work with Crazy Hammer. If Machamp is Confused, by an opponent's Pokemon or as a side-effect from Thrash, Crazy Hammer has a 50% chance of not working. 
Unless, however, you use Heavy Boots. Heavy Boots is a Pokemon Tool you can attach to a Pokemon with a Retreat Cost of three or more which gives it +20 HP and makes it so that the Pokemon with Heavy Boots can't be Confused. At first this seems oddly specific, but the card is specifically designed to work with Machamp. More HP means that Thrash has the capacity to do more damage, and Heavy Boots stops the nasty side-effect of Confusion. This does mean that you can't set yourself up to use Crazy Hammer, but hopefully the Thrash attack will get the job done anyway. However, Heavy Boots hasn't even been released in the U.S., and we don't even know when that would happen.

The most effective way to use Machamp is with the new Ariados



With that first attack, I hope Ariados stays away from my car.

Ariados has an Ability that you can use to poison both Active Pokemon (excluding Grass Pokemon). You can use Ariados' Ability to poison Machamp so that it can use Crazy Hammer. Then, the poison is removed from Machamp, and the Defending Pokemon should have 170 damage on it. Here is what a Machamp/Ariados list might look like:

3 Hawlucha

2 Lucario
2 Machamp EX
2 Spinarak
2 Ariados
2 Shaymin EX
=13

4 Ultra Ball

1 Level Ball
2 Switch
3 Muscle Band
1 Focus Sash

4 Professor Juniper

1 Ace Trainer
3 Professor Birch's Observations/Shauna
3 Korrina
2 Lysandre
3 VS Seeker
4 Ultra Ball

3 Fighting Stadium

=32

4 Strong Energy

5 Fighting Energy
=9

The list is a little clunky. I don't think that Machamp is an optimal attacker because it takes too long to get going. Lucario is faster and stronger than ever in a format without Mewtwo EX to hit it for weakness. If you want to build a Fighting deck in XY-on, I encourage you to build Lucario EX/Hawlucha/Crobat instead.
Do I think Machamp is playable? No, I don't think it is, because Outrage Pokemon are too reactive. Once you get enough damage on Machamp for him to be hitting big numbers, he becomes a One-Attack-Wonder due to the fact that he can be immediately KOed. He might find a niche spot in a fighting deck, but in the end, Machamp will take a position as eye candy in the pages of your binder.

Virizion


Virizion is interesting, to say the least. Its first attack, Rescue, is niche at best. It possibly goes well with Battle Compressor, as you can discard two Grass Pokemon and then get them into your hand with Rescue. However, if you're playing Battle Compressor, you might as well play Ultra Ball instead and grab that Grass Pokemon and put it directly into your hand!
Virizion's strongest attack is Prize Counter. For GG, Prize Counter does 40 damage, but if you are losing on Prize Cards, it does 120 damage instead. This is a decent amount of damage, and combined with Muscle Band and a Surprise Bite from Crobat PHF, you can knock out a 170 HP EX! Virizion's main use, however, is as a counter for Grass-Weak Pokemon. For just two energy it knocks out Seismitoad EX, Primal Groudon EX (with no Focus Sash attached), and Primal Kyogre EX, because 120 damage times the x2 weakness is 240 HP! This means that if you run across a Wailord EX, you will be in a pickle, however.
I don't think that Virizion will see much play. For one, its attacks don't have any C requirements, so you need Grass or Rainbow to use the attacks. This means that Virizion isn't splashable, so it can only go in decks that are already Grass-type. Plus, it can't be its own deck because it can't finish games. Once you go up on Prizes, Virizion's damage cap is too low to do any real damage. For this reason, Verizion might be strong at a prerelease, but not past that.


M Sceptile EX


What can I say, I didn't see that second attack coming!




















Let's start with Sceptile EX; it has 170 HP. Its first attack for G does 10 damage and on a coin flip makes the Defending Pokemon Asleep and Poisoned. Its second attack does 60 base damage, and 70 more if the Defending Pokemon is affected by a Special Condition.

What the card creators want you to do with Sceptile EX is use the first attack to poison the Defending Pokemon, and then follow it up with an Assassin Claw for big damage. One way to speed this up though is that Ariados that we talked about before with Machamp.


M Sceptile has the Theta Stop Ancient Trait, which defends it from Crawdaunt's Unruly Claw, Shiftry's Toppling Wind, and Crobat's Surprise Bite. This is a nice effect and all, but it doesn't completely make  the card like the Ancient Traits of Primal Groudon EX, Primal Kyogre EX, and M Rayquaza EX do.


What really makes M Sceptile good, besides its whopping 220 HP, is its Jagged Saber attack. It does 100 damage, and you can attach two Grass Energy from your hand onto one of your Pokemon. Then, you can heal all of the damage off of that Pokemon.


This Mega Evolution chain reminds me a lot of M Manectric EX, except that the Max Potion is "built in". The Basic has a solid first attack for one energy and a pretty good second attack provided you have the appropriate cards to make it do that extra damage (Head Ringer for Manectric and Ariados for Sceptile). The Mega Evolution of both of these cards can knock out EXes in two hits for C and a colored Energy. This second attack also accelerates energy, but it does less damage then the powerful attack of the Basic form.


The difference between these two chains though is the way that the energy gets accelerated. M Manectric accelerates from the discard pile, which means you can set up more attackers every time you attack. On the other hand, M Sceptile attaches the Energy from the hand. Objectively speaking, it's easier to get Energy into your discard pile than your hand. Cards like Ultra Ball, Professor Sycamore, and Battle Compressor help facilitate that at any point before you attack, no matter what else you do on your turn. To get energy in your hand, you need cards like Professor's Letter or Energy Retrieval to get Energy into your hand, and to take advantage of the energy acceleration that M Sceptile provides, you have to have that energy in your hand at the end of your turn.


Since it's harder to pull of M Sceptile's attack to its full potential, I think that it works better in a deck focused on the basic Sceptile EX.


4 Sceptile EX

2 M Sceptile EX
2 Spinarak
2 Ariados
1 Trevenant EX
2 Shaymin EX
=13

2 Switch

1 Energy Retrieval
2 Professor's Letter
4 Ultra Ball
1 Level Ball
2 Sceptile Spirit Link
2 Muscle Band
1 Weakness Policy
1 Exp. Share
3 VS Seeker
3 Professor Sycamore
5 Professor Birch's Observations/Shauna
2 Lysandre
3 Forest of Giant Plants
=30

9 Grass Energy

=9

We run four Sceptile EX because we want to start with it, but the odds are that we'll still start with one of our other Pokemon (although Spinarak's attack isn't terrible!). For this reason, we run a couple of Switch in case we start with the wrong thing. You might even consider bumping that number up some more in case you want to switch a damaged attacker to the Bench so it can get healed by a Jagged Saber.


We run two Ariados because it is important to hit magic numbers. Assassin Claw hits for 130 damage, which is 150 damage with a Muscle Band. With poison from Ariados, the Defending Pokemon will have 160 damage on them, which is 170 damage going back into your turn. This knocks out many EXes if they can't retreat or Mega-Evolve. Just in general, poisoning your opponent every turn is pretty awesome. Imagine what this deck could do in the Expanded format with access to Virbank City Gym!


Trevenant EX is a cool attacker that is pretty underrated. He has the same attack as Keldeo EX did, but he uses Grass Energy. I ran him in a deck for Regionals with M Manectric EX, so it would make sense that he would function even better with M Sceptile EX. His first attack can trap a useless Pokemon active if your opponent can't find a Switch, and his second attack can pack a real punch. If one goes down though, you probably don't need to load up a second one, so we only run one.


Our Pokemon Tool count is all over the place! We run two Spirit Link because we run two M Sceptile EX. We run two Muscle Band because it makes our Pokemon do more damage and hit important numbers. The Weakness Policy is to cover our Weakness to Fire because I expect Flareon AOR to be popular, which I will talk more about down below. An Exp. Share is something that I'm trying out to keep Energy on the board and stream Sceptile EXes more easily.


I personally think, that like Manectric, the Basic version of Sceptile EX is pretty darn powerful on its own. I think that it goes quite well with Crobat.


3 Sceptile EX

2 Spinarak
2 Ariados
3 Zubat
3 Golbat
2 Crobat
3 Shaymin EX
=18

1 Repeat Ball

3 Ultra Ball
3 Level Ball
3 Muscle Band
1 Sacred Ash
4 Super Scoop Up

3 VS Seeker

1 Pokemon Fan Club
3 Professor Sycamore
5 Professor Birch's Observations/Shauna
1 AZ
2 Lysandre

2 Silent Lab

=33

7 Grass Energy

2 Herbal Energy
=9

I do think that M Sceptile is receiving some hype that it does not deserve. Does anyone remember what happened when Phantom Forces came out? People thought that M Manectric would have a spot in both Yveltal decks and Virizion/Genesect decks, but it was just too clunky to work. M Manectric ended up being good in a Fighting/Manectric deck during cities, the Manectric/Empoleon deck during States and Spring Regionals, and lastly with Ninetales, Articuno, or Empoleon during Nationals. You may notice a pattern: Manectric was never a top-tier deck by itself. It always was paired with something else that gave it better type coverage. Adler Pierce won Kentucky States with Virizion/Genesect/Manectric, but that deck didn't run the Mega because it was just too clunky.


Sceptile is unlike Manectric in that it only accelerates Grass Energy, so it doesn't have the privilege of using type coverage to its advantage. It can only power up Grass or Colorless attacks. Theoretically, that means we could build a Sceptile/Lugia deck, but there is a reason why M Manectric/Mewtwo was never a deck: it just isn't worth it.


Lugia EX


Lugia EX has two attacks. The first is called Aero Ball and it does the same thing as Mewtwo EX from Next Destinies does. The attack does twenty damage times the number of Energy on both Lugia and the Defending Pokemon. The second attack is better than Mewtwo's attack, doing 150 damage at the cost of discarding a Stadium Card in play for CCCC. The issue I have with this card is Weakness. For one, Mewtwo hit stuff for weakness, and nothing has weakness to Colorless. So even though Lugia is very versatile, it doesn't pack the type coverage that Mewtwo did. The second issue that Lugia has with weakness is its own; Lugia EX is weak to Lightning. This is a problem because Lightning is everywhere! Neither M Manectric and Raichu are not going away in the near future, and that's going to give Lugia problems. Even Dedenne is going to pack a punch, and that isn't something that you can just ignore.

I don't think that you can center a deck around Lugia EX. I think that M Rayquaza is much better in terms of raw damage. I think that Lugia might find a space as a tech, like Mewtwo does, in decks that already run Double Colorless Energy. You might see Lugia in a Seismitoad/Crobat list, for instance, but I don't think that it will ever have its own deck.


Vespiquen and Eeveelutions


I know that eventually, I'll be making an individual blog post about Vespiquen, because I'll probably end up playing it in XY-on format. Here is a list taken from here:

4 Pikachu XY

4 Raichu XY
4 Combee AOR
3 Vespiquen AOR
4 Flareon AOR
2 Eevee FFI
4 Unown (R)
2 Shaymin EX

4 Level Ball

2 Ultra Ball
3 Battle Compressor
1 Escape Roper
3 Muscle Band
3 VS Seeker

4 Professor Sycamore

1 Lysandre
1 Blacksmith

3 Sky Field


4 Double Colorless Energy

4 Fire Energy

I think that my personal list would forgo Raichu completely and a skeleton list would look something more like this:



4 Combee AOR
4 Vespiquen AOR
2 Flareon AOR
2 Jolteon AOR
2 Eevee FFI
4 Unown (R)
3 Shaymin EX

2 Level Ball
4 Ultra Ball
4 Battle Compressor
1 Escape Roper
3 Muscle Band
3 VS Seeker

4 Professor Sycamore
2 Lysandre

3 Sky Field

4 Double Colorless Energy
4 Fire Energy

Vespiquen's Bee Revenge attack might look familiar: it is the same as Flareon PLF's Vengeance attack! This means that we might already know how to build the deck if we've built Flareon decks before. Looking at this deck might be a good place to show off some of the new cards and how they fit into the deck.

Unown


Unown has the same Ability as Unown R from Diamond & Pearl: Legends Awakened in that if it is on your bench, you can discard it and draw a card. This not only gives you draw power, but it also puts Pokemon in your discard pile! This makes Vespiquen's Bee Revenge attack do even more damage.

What can Unown R do outside of Vespiquen decks? Unless there is a Silent Lab in play, it always draws you a card. It makes your deck thinner; if you run 4 Unown R it is almost like you are running 56 cards in your deck! With Unown R and Battle Compressor, it is possible to build a very thin deck in the Standard format. Here is a skeleton list!

Farewell Letter = RETIRE

3 Shaymin EX
4 Unown
=7

4 Ultra Ball

4 Trainers' Mail
4 Roller Skates
4 Acro Bike
4 Professor Sycamore
4 VS Seeker
4 Battle Compressor
x Revive
=28

So, as you can see, this speed "engine" can take up over half of the deck. The goal is just to draw, draw, and draw! Throw in some Night Marchers and some Double Colorless Energy and you already have a very solid list.


Flareon, Jolteon, Vaporeon

Get 'em while they're hot!
Eeveelutions are back in Ancient Origins, and they are taking a more supportive role. Flareon's Ability gives all Stage 1s Fire typing in addition to their other type. Jolteon does the same but with Lightning typing, and Vaporeon with Water typing. This is a very useful tool to have in Stage 1 decks, especially with Vespiquen. If you don't need an Eevelution for a certain matchup, we can just discard it with Battle Compressor!

Right now, I have Flareon and Jolteon in the deck because I predict that those two types will hit lots of powerful Pokemon for weakness. But if something that is weak to Water gets popular, Vaporeon could fit comfortably in the deck too!


Notice that we only run two Eevee. We probably wouldn't need to get out more than two Eeveelutions in a game, and Eevee is definitely not our ideal starter.


So Vespiquen's Bee Revenge attack does 20 damage, plus 10 more damage for each Pokemon in our discard pile. We run a high count of Battle Compressor to help expedite that, and once we have fourteen Pokemon in our discard pile plus a Muscle Band, we'll be hitting for enough damage to knock out most EXes! Unown R lets us hit that number a little bit faster than Flareon decks could hit in the past, and a heavy count of Shaymin lets us draw into our Battle Compressors and Unown R while giving us more Pokemon to discard if needed.


Faded Town


Faded Town would be a cool tech to have as well to discard Pokemon if you have Sky Field in play and also to hit big numbers on Mega EXes.


Hoopa EX



Hoopa is a very cool card, and it will definitely be worth investing in. Hoopa EX has the Bandit Ring Ability that lets you search for 3 Pokemon EX when you put it onto your bench. This has a few direct applications. For one, it turns an Ultra Ball into "search your deck for three Pokemon EX", so it makes Ultra Ball a better card. Shaymin EX is a handy little Pokemon EX that lets you draw cards, so you can bench Hoopa, search for your main attacker plus a couple of Shaymin EX to draw cards which can give you a good opportunity to Set Up.

One advantage/disadvantage to Hoopa EX is that it fills your bench to use it. If you bench Hoopa and then bench all three Pokemon that you searched out with him, that is four bench spaces that you have just used up. If you already had a benched Pokemon, then you have already benched five Pokemon and that bench is looking pretty full.The flip side of this is that Hoopa is incredibly useful in Rayquaza decks that run Sky Field. Sky Field lets you have up to eight benched Pokemon, and Rayquaza does more damage if you have more Pokemon benched, so Hoopa helps you in those situations.

One thing that my friend pointed out to me though is that it has a Retreat Cost of two. That means that if you run Hoopa, you have to include switching cards or AZ as well in case your opponent drags him up to stall.

Level Ball



Running four Level Ball seems like a no-brainer, right? Well, Ultra Ball is still our Item of choice since it lets us get the all-important Shaymin-EX to draw us more cards. Having a couple of Level Ball thrown into decks with low HP-Pokemon isn't terrible though!

Level Ball unfortunately isn't as good as it once was, because Jirachi EX is no longer in the Standard format, but it is still a great card for decks that need to grab those itty-bitty 90 HP Pokemon.



Hex Maniac


This card is an incredibly interesting and skill-based card. It shuts off your opponent's Abilities, but it also shuts off your own. This means that you can use it to get out of Vileplume's pesky Item lock, but it means you can't use that Shaymin EX that you really wanted to Ultra Ball for now that you could play your Items. I expect that this card will be a one-of in decks like Vespiquen or Night March that really love their Items. It is a very cool card, and I can't wait to see the way that people use it!

Ace Trainer


Pokemon likes to print Supporter Cards similar to this one. Anyone who remembers Team Rocket's Admin, Team Galactic's Wager, or in more recent memory, N, knows how these cards work. Anyone who plays now is familiar with how playing an N late game can win or lose games. Ace Trainer, however, is not as powerful as N. While an N can win you the game in the later stages of it, it also provides relief as a draw supporter in the early game. For this reason, Ace Trainer won't be played as a four-of because you don't want to see it in your opening hand. In fact, without VS Seeker in the format, this card wouldn't see any play at all. As is, it may be a one-of to fulfill the disruptive role that N used to play, but it simply isn't as useful.
On the other hand, this card will affect how decks are built. I've heard many times something along the lines of, this card won't be good until N is gone. Tierno is now ruined and will never be playable, because you can't rely on building big hands. I recommend picking up one or two Ace Trainers, because it is a playable card, but it is no N by any means.


Ampharos EX / M Ampharos EX



















Ampharos is interesting, but I do not think that it will be playable. M Ampharos EX's attack does 120 damage, but you can make it do 50 more damage and paralyze the defending Pokemon at the cost of doing 30 damage to Ampharos. This is interesting, but not quite as useful as you might think at first. 170 damage is already knocking out a lot of EXes, so the paralysis doesn't always matter. Against 180 HP Pokemon, you are two-shotting them anyway even without the extra damage, which puts you in an uncomfortable situation. The attack costs a lot of energy and it doesn't even guarantee a knockout. Wouldn't you rather load up an M Rayquaza EX instead?

Ampharos' saving grace is that the Basic form is not so bad. Thunder Rod gives you a chance to accelerate energy, and Sparking Tail gives you a decent attack, albeit at a high cost. I just don't think that there is a suitable partner for M Ampharos at the moment. M Manectric is an obvious choice as it accelerates energy and uses Lightning itself, but running two Mega Evolutions in the same deck can get quite clunky! For this reason, I don't think that Ampharos belongs in any decks at the moment. Perhaps in the future if something new is released, but for now I wouldn't hold your breath, or hold onto your Ampharoses.


As a side note, in the Limited Format, Ampharos EX is absolutely amazing. If you are lucky enough to pull one, you can build a deck that consists of one (or two) Ampharos EX and 39 Lightning Energy. Then, you can use the first attack, and after that you'll be able to do 100 damage every turn. This is absolutely amazing by prerelease Standards.

Rotom


This is a gem that I would pick up a couple of copies of. Its attack on average will remove one and a half cards from your opponent's hand. If PCL releases more disruptive cards, I could see Rotom being used as an attacker in a type of lock deck that controls the size of your opponent's hand. I don't think that this belongs in any decks at the moment, while they are cheap it can't hurt to pick these up in case they ever get good.

Primal Kyogre EX, Primal Groudon EX, and M Rayquaza EX

Primal Kyogre EX Bandit RingPrimal Groudon EX Tidal StormM Rayquaza EX Bandit Ring HQ


The cards above all got reprinted as Secret Rares in Ancient Origins! They got new art, which frankly looks quite amazing. Unfortunately, they all had their previous Ancient Traits removed and instead got the new Theta Max Ancient Trait, which reads, "when one of your Pokemon becomes this Pokemon, heal all damage from this Pokemon". This unfortunately in all three cases is vastly inferior to the Ancient Traits that they had previously. M Rayquaza's Delta Evolution Ancient Trait gave the deck a lot of its speed. Kyogre's Alpha Growth let it accelerate energy attachments. Groudon's Omega Barrier let it build up on the bench without the fear of being dragged into the Active Position or having its energy removed with Trainer cards. Without those Ancient Traits, the cards just aren't playable.

Out of all of them, you could make the case that Rayquaza didn't rely on its Ancient Trait so much, but the Theta Max trait is still vastly inferior. None of these Pokemon are ones that you want to be playing with before you Mega Evolve, so that type of healing is useless.

These cards look amazing, but they don't play as amazingly as they look.

Evil Energy

Evil Energy is supposed to go with M Tyranitar EX, because Tyranitar benefits from having damage on the Defending Pokemon. However, in that deck, it's more important that the energy is Basic because of Yveltal XY, Mega Turbo, and in Expanded, Dark Patch. The card may find a niche someday, but for now it is second-tier.

In Standard, I could see it warranting a few inclusions in a straight Yveltal EX deck. You can use it while you're attacking with Baby Yveltal in the set up phase to lay down a few extra damage counters.

The other Special Energy in the set, Flash Energy, isn't even worth mentioning.

M Tyrannitar EX




















Last, but not least, we have M Tyranitar EX. The Tyranitar EX evolution line is cool and it also isn't bad! M Tyranitar has the potential to hit for big damage with the help of a Golbat or a Crobat:

3 Yveltal XY

3 Tyranitar EX
3 M Tyranitar EX
4 Zubat
4 Golbat
2 Crobat
1 Shaymin EX

4 Professor Sycamore

5 Professor Birch's Observations/Shauna
1 Sacred Ash
3 VS Seeker
3 Tyranitar Spirit Link
2 Muscle Band
4 Ultra Ball
1 Level Ball
2 Mega Turbo

4 Double Colorless Energy

8 Darkness Energy

3 Sky Field


In Expanded, M Tyranitar EX gets even better with the help of Dark Patch! Between Mega Turbo and Dark Patch, it's possible to load up a Tyranitar in the nick of time.


M Tyranitar EX has the Ancient Trait Theta Double. This means that it can have two Pokemon Tools attached to it! This lets us attach a Muscle Band in addition to the Spirit Link, but it also means out opponent can attach a Head Ringer in addition to the Spirit Link, so beware!


I don't think that M Tyranitar EX is worthy of all of the hype that it has been receiving. It one-hits anything in the format, but so can M Rayquaza EX. For this reason, I believe that it is outclassed. The only way I could see it redeeming itself is through its Ancient Trait. With Theta Double, it can have two Pokemon Tools attached. You can go a very defensive route and attach two Hard Charms to Tyranitar, making it much more difficult to knock out. You could also attach two Muscle Bands for some extra damage! With any new Pokemon Tools released in the future, the possibilities are limitless.
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Thank you very much for reading! I spent a long time writing this article, and I selected the cards from the set that I thought were worth discussing. If I didn't mention a card that you wanted mentioned, let me know in the comments down below. I'd love to give my thoughts on any card in the set! Again, a big thanks goes to Andrew Wamboldt of The Charizard Lounge for doing a service for the community and releasing Ancient Origin scans.

Thanks for reading!
CR